They’ve been hoping that opinions issued by Lane County DA Alex Gardner and Associate DA Patty Perlow would allow them to redact UO documents en masse, instead of having to explain what they were hiding.
But the Oregon Court of Appeals has just rejected that Gardner and Perlow interpretation of Oregon public records law ORS 192, in a case involving EWEB and the Register Guard. Christian Withol has the report in the RG, here:
The Oregon Court of Appeals has rejected the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s argument that its entire contract to buy power from the Seneca wood-burning plant north of Eugene can be kept secret, and it sent the public records lawsuit back to Lane County Circuit Court.
The appeals court in its ruling Wednesday also said Lane Circuit Court Judge Karsten Rasmussen erred in his 2011 decision backing EWEB’s refusal to release the contract to The Register-Guard.
At the most recent meeting of the Senate Transparency Committee, Dave Hubin asserted that this Gardner decision would allow UO to keep entire documents secret. Nope.
Sorry, this isn’t the slam dunk you are hoping for. The facts of the two cases (EWEB v. Register Guard and you v. University) are completely different, unless your public record request only involves a request for executed contracts. That this issue went R.G’s way does not mean that the DA’s response to you is contrary to this decision.
nothing says transparency like lots of black marker
It looks to me like the Lane County DA (initially) agreed with the RG, but EWEB didn’t want to comply, so they sued and (surprise!) the circuit judge sided with EWEB. Fortunately, we have a functioning appellate court who got it right, but all they did was send it back down here for the details.
The Lane County courts are at least as biased towards UO as towards EWEB, and you’ve said that the DA never did much to stop UO’s public records shenanigans. So what’s going to change here as a result of this decision?
Yes, that’s my read too. Decision is here: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A149933.pdf
I don’t expect UO to change until Doug Park loses a few cases like this.
Thanks for posting the appellate decision.
Park won’t lose until someone actually fights him. Has anyone actually sued UO over public records disclosure? In my experience, UO’s go-to strategy across the board is to try to get away with whatever they can and bet that no one has the balls to sue them. And then they bet that if someone does have the balls to sue them, they’ll prevail on summary judgment. Not exactly a level playing field.
Someone with some deep pockets will have to take on the UO in something like this. Doug Park and well hell the GC has always played it over the line and ti will take someone taking them to task on it all in order for something to actually happen. Seems that being in the legal business is all about how far you can push and stretch and exploit the limits of the law rather than being a guardian of it.
The primary role of GC for any large organization is supposed to be managing risk by preventing shit from happening in the first place. UO seems to prefer the irresponsible strategy of doing whatever you want, even if you know perfectly well it’s wrong, because you know the worst consequences you’re likely to face are a little bad press. Even grossly incompetent counsel can “manage risk” when it’s so difficult to file a successful lawsuit.
Geller’s idea of managing risk was that faculty should not be reimbursed for travel after giving seminars at other universities. Instead, faculty should ask their department head to pay for seminars travel. Apparently the risk of abuse of seminar travel (the hypothetical posed was, ‘what if they travel and give a seminar somewhere and then meet a friend that lives there for lunch, which would mean they were using federal funds to subsidize hanging out with friends?’) outweighed the zero chance that departments were going to start picking up the cost of its faculty to give seminars at other universities!
Here GC is using a zero risk strategy, which ironically creates all kinds of risk. Look at the naive opinions they try to issue on FERPA, Title IX, records requests, and the Ombuds. They aren’t following best practices at other Universities yet, but with any luck they can grow into their role after a few more scandals, or just get fired if they can’t. It’s funny because GC is acting like they’re in an ivory tower, or something. The real problem, however, is that it has been quite a while since we’ve had leadership that knows when to take GC advice and when to be bold.
I think we’re talking about two sides of the same coin. GC seems to consistently advise against UO doing the ethical and/or law-abiding thing because there are zero consequences for not doing it, and there might be consequences if they do it.
Of course, it would be much better if, for example, there was no need to hide public records in the first place, but the GC doesn’t work on that because cleanup is so easy. Since the university can count on a complete absence of accountability, they’re doing the math right; they’ve just got their priorities very, very wrong.
As a side remark, this is also exactly how they handled bargaining with the GTFF. There was no good reason why they couldn’t either give benefits outright to the GTFF or write the hardship fund into the contract, but they didn’t because it might have resulted in some loss of leverage later on in some other context. And they figured that there wouldn’t be consequences because they thought (incorrectly) they would be able to manage fallout from the strike.